Men vs Women

3842115722_0cb57116fc_zI spend a lot of time with women entrepreneurs from board meetings, hearing them pitch and talking about their businesses.  I also spend a fair amount of time with men entrepreneurs too.  People frequently ask me what is the difference between the women and men entrepreneurs or is there any. 

There are many differences among men and women so it is not surprising that there are many differences among them when it comes to being an entrepreneur.  As I have been observing this a few things happened over the last week which really hit me. 

I met with two men who I have recently invested in.  They are not in NYC so we got to meet face to face for the first time on their visit to NYC.  They walked in the room and we had an immediate connection.  We sat and chatted about a variety of things for about two hours.  It was great.  They were both confident, smart and light.  Light meaning that there was no intensity, our conversation had minimal effort.  Fast forward I meet with a CEO of a pretty mature company.  He was also smart, charming and light.  There is zero effort in our conversation.  Both of these conversations were all business but we could have been kicking back and drinking a beer based on the intensity. The banter just flew back and forth.  

Those two conversations made me start to think about the many women entrepreneurs I meet and work with who go into offices and talk about their businesses with people they are meeting face to face for the first time.  Women are much more serious, they provide data and information, they are not light.  Of course this is a generalization.  I'd like to see women be more freeflowing.  They would not be sitting around talking about their business unless they were succeeding at what they are doing.  Perhaps it is innate, perhaps it is a lack of inner confidence (aka I built this and I own this and if you don't like it then fine), perhaps it is the need to prove oneself at every turn. I am not sure what it is and this is just an observation as it doesn't happen with everyone. 

I've said before I'd like to see women be a little cockier about the businesses that they have built but I think what I really mean is that I'd like them to take a deep breath and be a little lighter in their approach.  It just makes it easier for the person on the other side of the table to connect.  There is so much banter about men not investing in women and I continue to wonder is it the businesses that women build or is it the approach in the meeting.  Maybe it is a combination of both but more women need to be bold and confident with a spring in their step.  That spring makes people want to have what you are having.  It makes anyone want to come back and chat again. 

Comments (Archived):

  1. Schmendrick

    It’s easier for Brad Pitt to be relaxed and charming when chatting with a Victoria’s Secret model than it is for me. Maybe it’s easier to be “light” when you feel like you have already won the game.

    1. Gotham Gal

      maybe it is easier to be light when you feel like you have already own the game. i believe a lot of men entrepreneurs feel like they are empowered by what they do so the feeling is similar and so they act “light”.

  2. johndodds

    I think intensity displayed by either gender is inherently discomforting and not at all the same as passion or confidence. As diificult as it can be, we should all strive to avoid it.

    1. Gotham Gal


    2. ShanaC

      who do you differentiate between intensity and confidence

      1. johndodds

        Assume you mean how – in which case I’d just say that some people passsion can be alid-back as well as lean-forward, whereas some people (of both genders) display macho behaviour in the belief that this will be mistaken for certainty and knowledge.

        1. ShanaC

          correct. on the how

          1. johndodds

            But fail on the typing. Sorry.”some people who display passion can be laid-back”

  3. Lisa Abeyta

    Women receive somewhere between 4 – 9% of venture deals. On the other hand, of the less than 10% of women in venture capital, 70% of those have participated in deals for women. It doesn’t take a lot of extrapolation for a woman entrepreneur to understand that when she finds a woman who not only invests in women but champions them, this is her very best hope of raising capital for her company. This makes me wonder if the heavy, the intensity, you find is because you fill this role, and thus become so much more important to the women you meet with. I am still quite comfortably “light” when dealing with clients, colleagues and those in the community, but I have to remind myself to be light when meeting with potential investors, because I know my own chances of finding the right match are a lot tougher than the 4 – 9% since I live in a state with even less access to funding than the major funding centers like California or New York.I don’t think this is all of the reason, but just as I’ve seen my own child with a learning disability have to get more serious and intense to learn a skill that is affected by that disability, I think women see the mountain in front of them and get more serious about finding a way past it – and in doing so lose the ability to show the joy, the playful side of their nature.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Women get light when we begin talking. I believe I make them feel at ease as I am honest, direct and supportive. The best comes out in people that way and I hear from men (yes the majority of the investor pool) who meet with the women I know and that intensity and perhaps fear factor comes across. Not sure how to make them feel stronger to be lighter but perhaps that is one of the issues at play here.

      1. Lisa Abeyta

        I can say with experience that is the case with you, Joanne. You very much put others at ease. This is an excellent post, because it is such an important reminder that investment isn’t just about the numbers, it is about the human connection. I am fortunate, in that we’ve found early investment, but my own experiences have definitely awakened a desire to find ways to help other women find the confidence and needed connections to create their own success.

  4. William Mougayar

    Interesting. Do you think that age and maturity also plays a role in that degree of stiffness?

    1. Gotham Gal

      Not sure

      1. William Mougayar

        But confidence comes with a bit of experience (for both genders). Otherwise, it’s arrogance.

  5. Marjan Ghara

    I am at the ISTE conference and they had a PitchFest. Of the 20 companies that presented, there was not one single one that had a woman entrepreneur/CEO. Now Education is one field where women are the majority and there are plenty of EdTech companies run by women but when it came to selecting Startups to pitch at an EdTech event, they went with all the usual suspects startups that are run by men. And they are all fine and some are my friends! :))But this was very discouraging. I run a company that has a story and traction that is as compelling and has as good a chance as half of those presented.So sometimes it has nothing to do with the way women present themselves. Maybe because men (who are the majority) of investors like to invest in people like themselves (other men!).

  6. bsoist

    I’ve said before I’d like to see women be a little cockier about the businesses that they have built but I think what I really mean is that I’d like them to take a deep breath and be a little lighter in their approach.I think that is what you mean.You mentioned the cocky thing in your interview with Jason Calacanis, and I thought about this then. I don’t think anyone wants arrogant – in men or women, but that “lightness” that comes from an inner confidence.

    1. Gotham Gal


  7. Kirsten Lambertsen

    This is such an interesting topic.I think a lot of women do see outside approval as a primary validation, vs something internal. Maybe men are just trained more by our society to be internally guided, and so external validation is not nearly as important to them. Women have been traditionally trained to seek external validation, and failure to get it can be pretty devastating.And, of course, women who are indifferent to external approval are often viewed as “bitches.” It takes a bit of acrobatics to find the optimal middle between doormat and bitch.Raising my 4 year old daughter right now, I see the seeds of this already. It’s actually inspired me to start working with some animation friends of mine on a new female superhero (who is very internally directed!).

    1. LE

      Brainwashing at an early age is critical. I say that with regard to brainwashing being positive not negative.I’ll give you an example.When my kids were young and my parents came over I would always act excited that my parents were there. “Look who’s coming over! Grandma!” As a result my kids picked up on that excitement and have a very close relationship with my parents to this day. Many years later. Now of course there are other things that have made this happen but there is no doubt that putting the idea into their head at an early age was an important step in the direction I wanted that relationship to take.There is much you can do with this. (And when you’re done you have to do the same to find a “cure” for millenialism.)

  8. ShanaC

    I’m finding that balance to interestingly difficult. It is almost like I have to overcompensate on the female side in order to pass muster with the confidence level on the masculine-esque stuff (which granted, I see coming together on that side)Still, the balance feels inherently awkward

  9. Meredith

    This is an accurate observation – and it is a shame.However, society judges men by their potential and women by their accomplishments – (so women focus more on what they have done and men cultivate swagger)

    1. LE

      Society judges everyone by their accomplishments.Try this test.When you meet people you don’t know, choose a random sample and tell them you went to, say, Harvard. Take another sample and tell them you went to a community college. See what happens. See how they react to you. Or do the same with a job that is important vs. one that isn’t.Perhaps you are referring to the generality that applies to guys starting companies in tech in NYC or in Silicon Valley. Not representative of most of the US. (Or something like that.) In that case you could be correct. But in the vast majority of the world accomplishments matter and people are judged by what they have done, where they went to school (which can be seen as an accomplishment) or a host of other factors (who their parents are for example).

      1. Gotham Gal

        i am not so sure that i agree with that. many of the smartest people and best entrepreneurs I know never graduated college and came from nothing.

        1. LE

          Of course reality and perception are two different things. (My father never graduated college he was an immigrant and took night classes.) My father did ok but he has fellow immigrant friends who could absolutely eat some of those with college degrees for lunch. As could my father who regularly ran circles around “educated” people.Otoh, I have a brother-in-law that specifically had to get an MBA in order to advance within JP Morgan Chase. One of my sister’s had to get her masters in order to advance. Teachers who have a “masters plus 30” make more money. (I remember this from way back growing up because of a neighbor). There is a common perception in the medical community that “DOs” are not as good as “MDs”. (And both are even medical degrees).Not the same as saying that all MDs are better doctors or less smart than MDs. Or that there aren’t great teachers who don’t have the “plus 30” credits (which of course they get to make more money obviously).My point with Meredith was really that accomplishments matter because they are a quick way to generalize about someone when you know very little about them.That said of course people vary in the degree to which they are judgmental about things like that. My feeling is that the vast majority of business people out there that I have ever interacted with over the years would not have viewed David Karp the same way you and Fred did and recognized any opportunity at all.

  10. daryn

    I think the seriousness that comes from a lot of women entrepreneurs, especially in a business context, is spurred by the efforts they’ve had to go through to be taken seriously. I wouldn’t say it’s a lack of confidence as much as feeling a need to prove oneself. Take these same people out of “work-mode” at a social event or hanging out at the playground and the lightness comes out.It isn’t just women. I know I acted this same way when I was younger, then one day it just changed and I decided “I’ve done what I’ve done, and I am who I am. That’s what I’m putting in front of you.” That isn’t to say I don’t act with strategy or within context, it just allows me to focus on what I think is important to the moment rather than worry about myself.

  11. roset190

    I find that women are constantly being told how they should act – in every area of their lives, including in business. It’s exhausting. No wonder there is a self-consciousness and insecurity there. And now they should be light too. Perhaps it is true but it comes on the end of a long list of other behaviour that is recommended for success – “leaning in’, “being a bitch” etc. Ad nauseam…

    1. Gotham Gal

      being light also means being yourself. be who you are and that will come across. most people who are light are just being who they are and not trying to be anything else. being yourself is sincere and that is the best that any person can be.

      1. Jeff

        Being yourself, that is the key. As a southern california transplant to NYC, I find to many people in the city there is the thought that to succeed you have to make yourself more of an asshole, more of a know-it-all, be pushy, and be aggressive in a slightly nefarious way (i.e. not just I need to win, but I need to win and YOU need to lose). I don’t know if it’s their thoughts of how you “should” act in the city that is doing this, or if growing up out here that’s how they have been raised. But there is definitely not a good flow to many of these conversations…. how can their be flow when the other person is constantly looking to gain something, or win something, or sell something, to your detriment?I’m biased here, but I’ve found that most of my CA friends, while still carrying an intensity about their work, are much more light and casual in business. They still take everything seriously, and can be the asshole when they need to, but that is the last resort as it’s a much more productive atmosphere when everyone can flow together in their conversation and reach their agreements in a non-attacking manner.

        1. Gotham Gal

          interesting. new york city is a tough town.

  12. LE

    This is a very apropos post.I just spent several hours coaching my sister on strategy and she totally lost her nerve and didn’t execute what we had discussed for fear of “it’s not going to work anyway so why try”.That said I’ve seen this behavior in both men and women. But I would say women tend to me more likely to not put up a fight. Even when they have nothing to lose and everything to gain (was the case here no downside to following the strategy which is rare).Part of this might be that women tend to be more emotional than men.My sister essentially fell for a negotiating ploy based on fear, uncertainty and doubt. FUD. As a result she was dead out of the gate. A less emotional person may have relied more on rational than emotion and might have not ended up in the place that she did (that she didn’t have to).

    1. grvaughan

      Have definitely seen that, many women have a hard time sticking up for themselves. But I really doubt it has anything to do with emotion.It’s more like, if someone tells them they can’t do it, they believe it. I would say many women feel like they are in a weaker negotiating position, and maybe concern with family, etc., prompts that feeling. Still trying to understand this.

      1. LE

        While there could be many reasons I feel emotion has much to do with it. I always use the emotion of the other side against them when negotiating and find it a quite effective strategy.(It’s like that martial art (judo?) where you use someone’s momentum against themselves).It’s not that what you are saying is not correct but I think it plays a smaller role in some people (men and women) than others (“you can’t”). For example I am always looking for the “you can’t” which actually motivates me more.

  13. Janine Darling

    There are many factors that affect one’s ‘presentation’; the two that I believe most strongly influence are confidence, and the ability to recognize and react to the notion that all interactions, whether they be business, social, or personal are one thing first: human.It is so that women leaders, entrepreneurial or otherwise, often carry the weight of expectation more heavily in general than men. We think we must be smarter, better, stronger than our male counterparts in order to be taken seriously, and this sometimes manifests as other than what we are attempting to convey in the first place.From personal experience, I can say that the anticipation of presentation can worm it’s way to a frontal focus that can actually cause ‘brain-freeze’…and not in the ice cream kind of way. Though I do not lack for either moxie or confidence, the lead up to an important meeting can sometimes all but paralyze me. Even though I’ve been told many times that I present very well. Even though I am someone who prepares to the nth degree.As well, the idea for women that it is okay to blow your own horn is not hard-wired, nor is it universally taught to women as not only acceptable but an absolutely critical need, especially in the start-up environment.The ‘secret’ that I’ve learned and I hope will help others who read this post is to always remember that no matter who you are meeting with, no matter the import or not of the meeting, be your smartest self but also be your most human … charming, interactive, relaxed and happy. Combine your best business skills with your best social ones and make it a business party.Connection is the name of the game. People want to work with (and invest with) people that they feel an affinity towards.Thanks for a great post and also the opportunity to comment.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Fantastic advice

  14. jacqui boland

    I just left a comment on his post on Women 2.0, but it looks like this thread is much more active, so I’ll repost.I think that’s an interesting perspective, Joanne, and probably accurate. Though I find it to be true also with women investors. Whether I’m talking to a female angel investor or VC, I find the requests for data, information and due diligence follow-up much more intense than with any male investor.At Red Tricycle, our Series A is round is split between men and women investors, and it’s definitely the women investors who analyze our data and approach meetings with a greater intensity and seriousness.I don’t attribute it to lack of confidence. From my perspective, women are incredibly efficient with their time, and if we’re getting together to talk business, I’m going to make sure every minute is used economically and not wasted on “banter” or “small talk”. I understand that banter and small talk are part of doing business and building rapport, and perhaps we (or speaking for myself – I) simply don’t place enough emphasis on that part of the business.Thanks for the post.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Small talk is key for me. I want to know who I am talking to

      1. jacqui boland

        sure, I get it. and it’s useful to know that it’s important for you to know more about the founders prior to their pitch. My point was that many women in the start-up world on both sides of the table operate intensely/seriously.